by Terry Duffy
Town of Porter Board members held what was seen as the leadoff of its 2011-12 budget discussions Monday afternoon at Town Hall.
Overall it was a productive but also a somewhat animated session, as attending board members, joined by Supervisor Mert Wiepert, reviewed the tentative 2011 numbers prepared by town bookkeeper/secretary to the supervisor Norm Ault and offered their comments and criticisms. Town Councilman Larry White was out of town on vacation and did not attend the session.
On the surface this year's plan is viewed as a conservative one. It's smaller than last year's adopted plan of $4.6 million and is one that stays within the state's new 2 percent tax cap on rate increases.
Ault reported the 2011 tentative spending plan totals $4.3 million in appropriations and provisions. It carries a General Fund A line of $688,169 and a total line to be raised by taxes, including funding for fire companies and sewer improvement bonding, of $1.017 million.
The General A Fund line carries a projected tax rate of $1.837 per thousand of assessed valuation to property owners, with an estimated increase of 2 percent in the tax levy, keeping within the maximum allowable under the state's new tax cap formula, according to Ault. Fire company and sewer bond spending was not included in the tax rate number.
"All figures are based on the current year's," Ault added. "(There's) a 2 percent increase in taxes (but) no increases (in spending) other than normal." He said there were no shortfalls seen other than in the B Fund and possibly highway accounts. Those respective tentative numbers are: General Fund B, $1.194 million; Highway DA Townwide, $1,451 and Highway DB Outside Village, $938,435.
"The budget in here is the same as last year's," said Ault. He said the budget contains no new salary increases other than step increases for a handful of employees, but commented he felt all town employees "need a raise."
As mentioned, Town Council members were vocal in their brief analysis of the 2011-12 spending plan, one which at this writing remains tentative and very far from finalized. Board member Joe Fleckenstein, for one, argued on the need for tax cuts rather than raising taxes. Among his questions was spending on highway, its employee management, staffing and hours. "If we don't stop doing what we're doing, we're going to be in trouble," said Fleckenstein. "We need to start working together," suggesting that better communication between the town and highway department could be the answer.
Board member Jeff Baker had questions on spending for Porter on the Lake, suggesting that park maintenance should be considered on part time funding.
Fleckenstein also had questions with town auditing. He suggested that audits be conducted on such interests to the town as Time Warner Cable, utility companies and CWM Chemical Services LLC. "The town needs to be run more like a business," commented Fleckenstein, himself a private business owner.
Summing it up, he stated, "We need to be more proactive. I'm tired of taxing the public for less services."
Town Board members are expected to discuss the budget process further at its Tuesday, Oct. 11, regular meeting.